What is Cybernetics?

The term cybernetics comes from the Greek:


It means cox or steersman.

It would seem therefore that the issue of ‘cox’ might be very well understood in Trinity!

Although cybernetics is usually expressed in mathematical form, this is really neither necessary nor mandatory in order to get a feel for the subject or to receive an introduction. This does not deny any rigor in the intellectual pursuit of cybernetics. Indeed it is the contention, to be explored, that the general concepts and philosophy of cybernetics can be fruitfully employed in a very wide range of human activity, viz.: engineering, chemistry, medicine, and (surprisingly) government, diplomacy and the law, especially jurisprudence.

It is interesting to note that the words governor, and government come via the Latin from the original Greek.

The American mathematician Norbert Wiener, working at MIT during the Second World War, on defence systems was undoubtedly the father figure of cybernetics and wrote the seminal papers in the subject. Nobert later realised that many of the problems, which he had considered as an engineer, had their equivalence also in clinical medicine. A degenerative disorder, Huntingdon’s Chorea that arises in conjunction with a malfunction of the cerebellum is a case in point. Here the patient might reach for a glass of water on the table, overshoot and upset the glass.

Several university departments, worldwide are devoted to the study of cybernetics. Also many countries have cybernetics societies, notably the UK and USA. In Europe there are such societies in France, Belgium, Italy, Germany and Austria.

This talk will provide some simple examples of application of cybernetics principles in a wide range of human endeavour. Also brief biographies of some of the more colourful cyberneticians will be sketched out.

The most important part, however, is yet to come and that is a general discussion!


Further thoughts have been added here in July 2009Click here

Background material is available:Click here

Brian Warburton F. Cyb. Soc.

OTO 1953 – 1957

Senior Lecturer in Pharmaceutics (U of Lon.) 1990 - 1997

(Design of Clinical Drug Delivery Systems)

President of The (UK) Cybernetics Society 1995 – 1999